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Valerie Harper's Final Years after Playing Rhoda Morgenstern on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'

Kareena Koirala
Feb 10, 2020
09:15 P.M.
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Valerie Harper, who played Rhoda Morgenstern, the leading lady's unseemly best friend, on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and a later spinoff, "Rhoda," her hit sitcom, died of medical causes late last year.


The actress who once quoted herself as someone who was born to suffer died after a long and torturous battle with a form of terminal brain cancer called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.

Harper began her career as a dancer with the corps de ballet at Radio City Hall and eventually found her way into acting, first in theatre and eventually everything from industrial shows to regional theatre to the Second City comedy troupe of Chicago.

Valerie Harper at The Los Angeles Theatre Center on October 23, 2016. | Source: Getty Images

Valerie Harper at The Los Angeles Theatre Center on October 23, 2016. | Source: Getty Images



The beloved "Rhoda" star eventually found herself working on Broadway's "Dear Liar," the Tony Award-winning Story Theatre, "Something Different" and "Metamorphosis."

However, it was her role as Rhoda in the 1970 sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," that made her a household name in the States. She would later star in a sitcom of her own named after her character of "Rhoda."


The unforgettable role of Mary Richards' best friend earned Harper four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award, as Rhoda's wedding episode had the highest rating of the year 1974.


The actress lived to be ripe aged at 80 with brain cancer as her way out, but that was most certainly not the first time she faced such harsh health conditions, as her terminal disease was a consequence of another ailment of her past.


Harper's first quarrel with cancer was in 2009. The "Shiver" star was diagnosed with lung cancer and even underwent surgery to remove a two-centimeter tumor from her lungs.

However, the actress only went public with the news four years later when she received the diagnosis that the cancer had metastasized to her brain and was terminal.



In 2013, doctors gave Harper only three months to live. Although, the doctors did not just give up on her. They administrated treatment that would improve her survivability, but curing the ailment was impossible.

Being the tough cookie that she is, Harper did not let the cancer slow her down, but instead, she concentrated her efforts to share her story and raise awareness about the terrible disease.


The actress even appeared in the short movie "My Mom and the Girl." The film written, directed and produced by Susie Singer Carter, who plays opposite Harper, is about Carter's experience with her mother's Alzheimer's disease.

Harper probably resonated with the plot as she described the movie as a joyful yet emotionally challenging as the movie had real joy amalgamated with sadness.

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